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Oceanside Abalone Cove Trail on Palos Verdes is a walk to awe over

Tucked into the Palos Verdes coastline, this quiet cove offers good walking, great ocean views, a secluded beach and some of Southern California's most accessible tidepools. Wear shoes that can get wet to get a close look at the aquatic animals.

A visitor sits by a cliff-side fence leading to the trails at Abalone Cove on the Palos Verdes coastline. This quiet cove offers good walking, great ocean views, a secluded beach and some of Southern California’s most accessible tidepools.
A visitor sits by a cliff-side fence leading to the trails at Abalone Cove on the Palos Verdes coastline. This quiet cove offers good walking, great ocean views, a secluded beach and some of Southern California’s most accessible tidepools. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

1. Park and pay the $5 parking fee at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. (Parking on nearby residential streets is by permit only.) Leave the parking lot headed toward the water, and follow the Abalone Cove Trail along a cliff-side fence. Continue as the trail cuts through some bushes and turns steeply downhill.

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2. When you hit a wide stretch of asphalt, head right to visit the beach or left to continue to the tidepools. Then bear right and downhill onto Sea Dahlia Trail as it winds along the water. You're now on part of the California Coastal Trail. Begun in 1976, it will eventually extend 1,200 miles from Mexico to the Oregon border.

Visitors walk up the Abalone Cove Trail on the Palos Verdes coastline.
Visitors walk up the Abalone Cove Trail on the Palos Verdes coastline. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

3. The rocky trail will curve around and spill onto a wide beach. Just beyond are terrific tidepools, where you can see starfish, sea anemones, crabs and maybe even one of the shiny shells of the abalone that give the park its name. Watch for incoming waves and slippery rocks.

A woman walks along the rocky stretch of beach heading to the tidepools at Abalone Cove.
A woman walks along the rocky stretch of beach heading to the tidepools at Abalone Cove. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

4. With the beach behind you, climb past a public restroom to wide Olmstead Trail. (The Olmstead design firm, which was responsible for New York's Central Park and San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, also designed parts of Palos Verdes Estates.) Follow this trail as it arcs up and to the right, climbing to the bluffs above.

Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright, is seen on an inland hill above Portuguese Point Loop Trail on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The “Glass Chapel” is one of the South Coast’s premier wedding locations.
Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright, is seen on an inland hill above Portuguese Point Loop Trail on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The “Glass Chapel” is one of the South Coast’s premier wedding locations. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

5. At the top of Olmstead Trail, turn right to circumnavigate Portuguese Point. Enjoy broad ocean views to the west of Catalina Island and to the south of adjacent Sacred Cove. On the inland hill above you is Wayfarers Chapel, the "Glass Chapel" designed by Lloyd Wright. It's one of the South Coast's premier wedding locations.

A view from the Portuguese Point Loop trail at Abalone Cove.
A view from the Portuguese Point Loop trail at Abalone Cove. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

6. Finish the Portuguese Point circle, follow Olmstead Trail back downhill and retrace your steps back along the rocky coast — or make the walk more arduous by taking the bluff trail to the right just before Olmstead hits the beach. But watch your step on this narrow, steep trail, which rejoins the Sea Dahlia Trail just before it heads back uphill to the parking lot.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and the just-published "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles."

The stats

Distance: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: 3, on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1½ to 2 hours

Details: Parking is $5. Dogs on a leash are OK on bluffs. No dogs allowed on beach or trails. Summer hours: noon to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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